Lopez Probable, Could Return Tonight
The Nets announced at this morning that Brook Lopez, who has missed seven straight games with a mild sprain of the right foot, has been upgraded to "probable" for tonight's game against the Pistons (Buy Tickets).
"(Brook) had a pretty good session yesterday," said coach Avery Johnson. "He played a lot of 3-on-3, did a lot of running and he seemed to recover okay. So he's just 'probable.' He got through shoot around. We're going to go in and treat him, get him home, get him some rest and then tonight we'll all sit down and make a decision."
Lopez's return causes a chain reaction that impacts the Nets in all kinds of positive ways. The team's net efficiency with him on the court is +5.4 (Off: 108.4; Def: 102.9), second only to that of forward Reggie Evans.
With Lopez, the Nets play inside-out, at a slower pace; with Lopez in the lineup, the Nets attempt three fewer three-pointers per 100 posssessions and average about two fewer possessions per game (92.20 in the last five games, 90.9 for the season). Also, Lopez starting means a bench role for Andray Blatche, where the 6-foot-11 big man has dominated opposing second units, providing a tremendous advantage for the Nets.
No one knows that better than Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, who coached Lopez for the center's first two NBA seasons in New Jersey. Frank praised Lopez's ability, adding that the 24-year-old was a good teammate and a pleasure to coach.
"Well look," Frank said. "What are they, 10-4 with him and 2-5 without him? What happens is, with all the attention Deron Williams gets and Joe Johnson gets, people forget Brook's the leading scorer. Brook, when single-covered on the block, is a monster. Plus, he's such an unorthodox player (with) his size and the fact that he has range and can shoot shots, shoots them off balance, got great hands.
"People, until they play against him, don't realize how big he is and has a great offensive feel. He's a game-changer for them. Plus, you look at their defensive field-goal percentage -- significantly different with him versus not playing."
And with Greg Monroe (15.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG) lining up in the middle for Detroit, which has played roughly .500 ball (7-9) after starting 0-8, Lopez's return would come at an opportune time for a Nets team looking to build on Wednesday's win in Toronto. The 7-footer is feeling good about getting to test his foot in full-contact, full-speed practice and believes he's ready to get back to game action.
"I've been itching to get back out there for a while now," Lopez said. "We've been taking it slow, so we'll see how it feels tonight.